NASA is ready for your resume. The application process for future astronauts will be opening up next month, so here's your chance. The search will include recruiting candidates for future Mars missions. The window for application will open on Dec. 14 and close in mid-February. NASA will host the search at USAJobs.
"You see, NASA is on a journey to Mars, and we are on the lookout for a new generation of space pioneers," says Charlie Bolden, NASA administrator and a former astronaut himself.
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So, what does it take to be a space pioneer? The qualifications are strict and specific. The first prerequisite is a bachelor’s degree in either mathematics or the sciences. The restrictions get more complicated from there. NASA is looking for candidates with three years of related experience or significant flight time, but teaching experience can fulfill this requirement provided that the subject taught is in a STEM field. In addition to education and experience, NASA requires a rigorous physical. Still interested? The full list of requirements can be found on NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Program website.
NASA also adheres to an affirmative action program, strongly encouraging minorities and women to apply to become astronauts. Applicants in the military are welcome to apply, as well as civilians. There's no age restriction, but keep in mind that the average astronaut age is 34.
Upon selection, astronaut candidates will report to the Johnson Space Center for two years of training. Skills learned include becoming certified in scuba and learning military water survival, skills you'll need to conduct EVAs (extravehicular activities) in space.
But even if you become an astronaut candidate, you might never see space. The good news is that there are still opportunities to work at NASA even if you aren’t selected to go into space. If you graduate from the program, you'll acquire skills in robotics and the Russian language, among others.
How much can you earn as a professional space traveler?
It turns out that astronauts make good money. While the experience to visit space and continue humanity’s exploration of it might be compensation enough for some, the salary could be considered icing on the cosmic cake. Astronauts make between $65,140 and $100,701 per year, which is in line with the federal government's general guidelines.
So why open up the application process now?
NASA periodically recruits new astronauts. However, this new search comes at a time when NASA is planning to resume launching manned flights from the United States. According to NASA, "The next class of astronauts may fly on any of four different U.S. vessels during their careers: the International Space Station, two commercial spacecraft currently in development by U.S. companies, and NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle." Orion is the transport that could take astronauts to Mars.
So if you meet the qualifications and are prepared to be transformed from earthbound citizen to space explorer, it’s time to apply. And while becoming an astronaut is surely not a walk in the park, it could mean a chance to walk on Mars.